Fourth of the Seven Last Words

My God,my God, why have you forsaken me? My God,my God, why have you forsak
Matthew 27:45 and Mark 15:34

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From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.
 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Matthew 27:45

 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

 Mark 15:34

 I want to begin today by making a list of things I notice about the Fourth Saying, “The Word of Abandonment,” spoken by Jesus.

  • This is the only phrase found in two gospels, and it is the only one noted by Matthew and Mark. (3 others are in Luke and 3 in John)
  • Part of the saying is recorded in Aramaic, Jesus’ native language.
  • There is now a shift in Jesus’ words to focus upon himself rather than the people around him.
  • The specific time of day when Jesus spoke these words is documented in the scriptures. (from noon until 3 o’clock in the afternoon the sky was dark!)
  • Here is the only Word of Jesus that asks a question. (and the question is never answered)
  • This is the only place in scripture where Jesus refers to his Heavenly Father as God. (all other times it is Father)

Since Jesus’ words take the form of a question, it puts me in a questioning mood. I think my blog is going to take the form of a question and answer debate because I have some questions of my own.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 Although Jesus had lived as God incarnate for the last 33 years, here is where I see the genuineness of his humanity. When Jesus asked this question he was experiencing sorrow, grief and pain to the fullest extent physically and as well as being forsaken by his Father spiritually. He was feeling the full impact of God’s wrath toward sin. This created a separation he had never experienced before and it caused him to ask a question he had never needed to ask previously.

Why did Jesus feel the need to ask this question?

 This is not a question I have found answered in any commentaries I have read. I am totally thinking on my own right now! I know Jesus knew he came to this earth to die in order to save me and all mankind, but I wonder if he thought about his need to be separated from his Heavenly Father. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” As Jesus talked with his disciples shortly before his arrest, he emphasized this fact in John 14 and 15. Also, in John 16:22 Jesus said, “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” Jesus had never known what it was like to be separated from his Father even though he was living on the earth and his Father was in heaven. I suspect Jesus was counting on his Father to help him spiritually encounter the physical pain he would endure. It is interesting to note that this is the only reference in scripture where Jesus calls out to God rather than Father.

Why didn’t God answer Jesus’ question?

 I find it interesting that God did not answer Jesus’ question of “Why?” It had to be an extremely difficult time for God to look down from heaven and see His Son suffering so greatly and not be able to do anything for him. However, because He is a holy God, He could not answer Jesus’ question even if He had wanted to explain. In Habakkuk 1:13, it is said of God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” However, once the penalty for sin had been paid, God turned back to His Son and he was no longer forsaken. Jesus may not have had his question answered at the moment of suffering but his time of abandonment was limited and he and the Father were again one.

Do I know why Jesus was forsaken?

 Today I find the answer to the question Jesus asked on the cross over 2000 years ago. Paul states in II Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” and II Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” How valuable the Bible is to help me gain a deeper understanding!

What happens when I ask the “Why” question?

 Like many believers, I often ask “why” when something happens. Sometimes the reason is revealed and other times it is not. If God did not give Jesus an answer to the why question, why do I think He should give me a direct answer? Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” To know God is more important than to know why. Knowing God alleviates the need of knowing why.

Have I ever experienced the need to ask,
 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Yes! I must begin by identifying with Paul in Romans 7: 14-25. I quote verse 15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I have no ability to comprehend the utterly horrific experience of having all the sins of the world put upon me as did Jesus! My own sinful nature is more than enough for me. However, I do want to try to personalize these words of abandonment felt by Jesus. There have been times when I have wondered where God was at in the midst of situations I have encountered. I have wondered how and why God allowed me to struggle with particular things. However, I can always cling to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Yes, the fact that God had to turn His back upon His son on the cross makes me very aware that God will turn His back on those who are covered with sin. However, because Jesus endured this for me I know I can be assured of His presence and help in my life. That is why He is called Savior. Jesus cooperated with God the Father to save me from my sinful nature by taking my nature upon himself so He could in turn give me his sinless nature. I never need to experience what Jesus experienced on the cross!

Do you ever feel forsaken?

My Reader, have you ever felt like you could identify with these words of Jesus? Do you ever cry out to God asking why He has forsaken you? Do you ever ask Him why you are enduring a specific trial? Embrace the cross and embrace the reality that God is always with you. You are not forsaken!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Third of the Seven Last Words

Behold your son: behold your mother. Behold your son: behold your mother. Behold
John 19:26-27

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As I begin to focus my thoughts upon the third saying spoken by Jesus on the cross, I try to picture in my mind what is witnessed by those at this scene. Even though Jesus is hanging on the cross, his eyes are still roving around and seeing the people within his view. It appears strange to me that a crowd of people would come to a crucifixion to watch three men die, but  that seems to be the scenario. I wouldn’t want to be there! I am also amazed that Jesus is able to focus so intently upon the presence of his mother, the disciple John, and other women and disciples who are near the cross. Not only does he see them, but he still speaks coherently to them. Today I read in the gospel of John.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:26-27

Two thoughts come to my mind as I read this scripture. First, I admire how considerate Jesus is to make provision for his mother. Secondly, I find it interesting that Jesus asks the disciple John rather than one of his biological brothers to care for Mary. My Reader, let me share with you what I have contemplated.

I read an article online entitled Adapted from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (John 19) that was interesting.  “Jesus established a new relationship between his beloved mother and his beloved disciple.” Being confident in the love John had for himself, Jesus felt secure in entrusting His mother to the guardianship of this disciple. From that moment on, John took Mary to his own home and cared for her as if she were his mother. Matthew Henry’s article went on to say that it was a great responsibility for John to take care of Mary but he cheerfully accepted it and took her to his home. He did not object to the trouble or expense, nor his obligations to his own family, nor the ill-will he might experience by it. According to Nicephoras’s Ecclesiastical History (book 2, chapter 3), Mary lived with John at Jerusalem eleven years and then died. Others say she went with John to Ephesus.

When I look more closely at the crucifixion crowd, I ask myself, “Where were Jesus’ brothers while he was hanging on the cross?” I do not find an answer to this question, but it does remind me of the following scripture.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.
Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him,
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers!
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
Mark 3:31-34. (emphasis is mine)

I once heard an explanation for this scripture saying that Jesus was not disowning his biological family by these words but was emphasizing that anyone who did the will of God was just as important to him as his family relatives. The family of God was more inclusive than the biological family for Jesus and the same is true for me today. However, biological family can also be a part of God’s family. I like this because I believe Jesus loved his family. Even though his brothers may not have completely understood Jesus at this time (I guess I cannot blame them for that!), according to Galatians 1:19 and I Corinthians 9:5, there was one brother who became an apostle and other brothers who became missionaries at later dates. Biological family vs spiritual family comments help me to understand why Jesus asked John to take care of his mother. Jesus loves all people and sees all of us for who we are and who we can be in Christ whether we be part of his biological family or the larger family of God. When Jesus looks down from the heavenly realm where He now resides and sees my cares and concerns, he will personally sustain me or lay it upon someone’s heart to reach out to me with the provision I need just as he saw the needs of His mother and made arrangements for her needs.

This third word of the seven last words of Jesus is known as “The Word of Redemption.” To redeem means to pay the price for or to buy back. Jesus redeemed us, paid the price for our sins enabling us to be part of the family of God as God originally planned at the time of creation. When I think about this fact, it seems very appropriate that Jesus would ask John to care for his mother because by doing so he was giving John the responsibility and role of a son in tending for his mother. He was elevating John to the personal relationship of a brother when he thought highly enough of him to entrust him with this responsibility. Jesus was setting the stage to put into action the plan that when anyone accepts Jesus as his or her personal savior, he or she becomes a part of the family of God. This is why we can be known as brothers and sisters in Christ today. According to Ephesians 1:7-8, “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”  Thank you Jesus for this fact! If I am a sister in the family of God, what is Jesus asking me to do today – who is He asking me to care for? My Reader, my sister or brother in Christ, what is Jesus asking of you?

Joyfully,
 Cheryl

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Second of the Seven Last Words

Today you will be with me in paradise. Today you will be with me in paradise. Today
Luke 23:43

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The second week of Lent begins today and I am ready to meditate upon the second of the seven last words or phrases spoken by Jesus as he hung on the cross. The second word is known as “The Word of Salvation” and is found in the same chapter of Luke as the first word I focused upon last week. Jesus was not the only man to be hung upon a cross that day. There were two thieves or criminals who were also crucified, one on either side of Jesus. The one man just hurled insults at Jesus and said in Luke 23:39, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Jesus did not respond to him. The other man said to the first man, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” in verses 40 and 41. This second criminal then talked to Jesus in verse 42 saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus not only responded to this remark but granted his request. Jesus’ response to this man is the second word that I am wanting to learn more about this week.

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43

The first thing I notice about this statement made by Jesus is that he begins by saying “Truly I tell you.” Jesus’ response is true because he is the Truth according to John 14:6 when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Another reason Jesus may have chosen the word truly is to point out that he was the only one who could provide the way to his Father in paradise or heaven. Jesus fulfilled the criminal’s request in Luke 23:43 when the criminal confessed that he had sinned and asked for salvation. I am sure this man never forgot these personal words from Jesus – and neither will I!  My Reader, you and I can still accept the fact that Jesus says these same words to you and me when we confess our sins because I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I am glad I can relate more to the second criminal on the cross beside Jesus than the first one!

“Today” is the next word I notice as I study these words of Jesus. As long as I, or anyone, is still living on this earth, there is hope for salvation. This criminal was dying on the cross and his request for forgiveness may have been the last words he ever spoke. I am quite sure they were the most important words he ever spoke. Jesus heard him and answered positively. My Reader, I encourage you not to wait until your dying breath to accept Jesus as your personal savior, but he will hear you if that happens to be the situation. I like the promise found in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Another thing I notice is that the moment this criminal asked Jesus to forgive him, he was assured of the gift of salvation. My Reader, when Jesus hears this request from a sincere heart, he grants the request to anyone at that very moment just as he did for the criminal on the cross. Jesus says “yes” – not “no” or “maybe” or “let me think about that!” Thank you, Jesus, for these special words! Hmmm, I wonder if the criminal on the cross had enough breath to say “thank you.”

The final word that stands out for me is “paradise.” This has always been an interesting word to me. It comes from a Persian word meaning “garden.” Some commentaries refer to the Garden of Eden as being the paradise on earth that God created in the beginning. Revelation 2 and 22 both refer to paradise as being a garden. Revelation 2:7 states, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (For your own information you might like to compare Genesis 2: 4-18 where the Garden of Eden may be called the Garden of God and Revelation 22:1-5 where the New Jerusalem may be called the Garden City of God.) However I choose to define paradise, it is where I desire to dwell with Jesus for eternity as promised by Him on the cross.

I am glad that Jesus spoke these words to the criminal on the cross and I am glad that I can hear these words spoken to me today. As Jesus hung on the cross that day long ago, there also were two other men upon their own crosses. One man hung on either side of Jesus. My Reader, with which man and which words do you most identify? Has Jesus responded to the cry of your words?

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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First of the Seven Last Words

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. Father, forgive them, they know
Luke 23:34

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According to the Christian calendar, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The season of Lent is comprised of the forty days before Easter, not counting Sundays. I find it interesting that Sundays are not counted because they are considered “mini-Easters.” Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.”  The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring temptation by Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent is often defined as time of repentance, fasting and preparation for Easter. Today, Christians may focus upon their relationship with God and may choose to volunteer and give of themselves for others rather than giving up something for Lent. I seem to identify more with adding rather than subtracting from my life to prepare for Easter. This year I have decided to meditate each week of Lent upon one of the seven last statements made by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion. I think these words are important because often the last words a person speaks are what a person most wants those around him or her to hear and remember.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

This statement recorded by Luke is often referred to as “The Word of Forgiveness.” As Jesus was being nailed to the cross, these are the words that were uttered from His lips. I have to ask myself the following questions. Who is “them” that he asks his Father to forgive? Are they the Pharisees and Sadducees who demanded his death? Are they the Roman soldiers who have beat him and pulled out his bread and placed the crown of thorns upon his head? Are they the jeering crowd he walked through on his way to Golgotha? Are they the soldiers nailing him to the cross? Most likely, “them” included all of them! However, I am probably too shortsighted when I think that “them” refers only to the people surrounding Jesus at the time of His death. I must remember that the purpose of Jesus coming to earth in human form was to die so I could live. My sins are included in the reason Jesus was on the cross. I now hear Jesus speaking personally on behalf of me when he speaks, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Wow, this gives me a deeper appreciation of what Jesus said that day! I cannot conclude this paragraph without quoting John 3:16-18. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  Jesus died to forgive my sins which includes my sinful nature and the sins I still commit because I do not know what I am doing. Jesus forgave me that day on the cross but I still need to go to the cross to ask forgiveness for my mistakes and shortcomings. I am definitely one of “them” and I am grateful that I am forgiven and continue to be forgiven!

As I continue to ponder upon these words of Jesus, I realize that I need to follow his example and ask the Father to help me forgive specific people who have sinned against me. I need to grasp the fact that those who have hurt me most likely did not know what they were doing. When I can comprehend that someone did not intentionally offend me, it is much easier for me to forgive them. I am reminded of the words spoken by Jesus when he taught his disciples how to pray.  Matthew 6: 12, 14-15 says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Debts can be translated trespasses or sins in different translations of these verses. Forgiveness is a big deal!

My Reader, do you see yourself as one of “them”? Do you need to follow the example of Jesus and ask someone to forgive you? The answers to these questions may not be easy to verbalize, but your truthfulness will lead you to a closer relationship with Jesus. This is the reason for the season of Lent – a time to repent and prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection six weeks from this Sunday.

Joyfully,
 Cheryl
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